Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Niklaus Manuel Deutsch

Pyramus and Thisbe
ca. 1520
distemper on canvas
151.5 × 161 cm
Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland

Niklaus Manuel Deutsch (1484-1530) was a Swiss painter, engraver, stained-glass designer, dramaturg and statesman. He was a gifted artist who made highly realistic etchings and became known locally for his satirical plays. He became known internationally as a friend of Huldrych Zwingli from his teenage years and a strong supporter of the Protestant Reformation. In Bern, he campaigned for the reformed cause with the priest at St Vincent Munster. He devoted much of his life to furthering the Protestant Reformation as a soldier, writer, and statesman. He was a true "Renaissance man."

He was a son of an Italian apothecary who had immigrated to Switzerland. Scholars know nothing of his training and assume that he was self-taught. His earliest dated painting shows the influence of a local artist and of the graphic work of Albrecht Durer and Urs Graf. He primarily painted large, colorful works on religious and classical themes. He often depicted witches and stressed the theme of the power of women.

In 1516 and 1522, he fought as a mercenary soldier for the French in Lombardy, where he was injured. After 1521 he devoted increasing energy to poetry and to building support for the Reformation through government service and political writings, mainly plays. He signed his works as NMD.